UK

Spitting Prosecutions Begin In Waltham Forest As Council Cracks Down On 'Disgusting Habit'

25/09/2013 11:45 BST | Updated 25/09/2013 12:02 BST

Two people have been prosecuted for spitting in a London borough, in a move that is expected to set a precedent around the country.

Waltham Forest Council, in North East London, handed fines to Khasheem Kiah Thomas, 18, and Zilvinus Vitkas, under the same powers used to battle littering.

Council bosses hailed the landmark prosecutions as a crackdown on the "disgusting habit" of spitting.

Both men failed to appear at Thames Magistrates' Court on Friday and were found guilty in their absence, the council said.

spitting fines

'Spitting in public is a foul habit'

Each were ordered to pay a total of £300 - a £160 fine, as well as a £20 victim surcharge, and £120 costs to the council.

The council has been campaigning against spitting, issuing fixed penalty notices to people caught spitting in public places, as part of its Don't Mess with Waltham Forest campaign.

Launched in July, the campaign targets "enviro-crime" including spitting, litter, urination, dog mess, cigarette butts and takeaway litter and enforcement officers can issue fines of £80.

The campaign was put to the test with the prosecutions - the first it has pursued - but councillors claimed victory after magistrates endorsed their decision.

The council said that Thomas, of Hackney, east London, was handed a fixed penalty notice in Leyton, east London, on February 20, and Vitkas, of Ilford, Essex, was caught seven days later in Walthamstow, north-east London.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the courts have backed our tough stance on this issue and have recognised the huge groundswell of opinion that is firmly behind our initiative to put an end to this disgusting habit.

"Spitting in public is a foul habit and simply not acceptable on the streets of Waltham Forest in this day and age. We made a decision to use the powers we have at our disposal to crack down on this most unsavoury behaviour."

"We've been issuing £80 fines to people since February, but this is the first time a case has reached the courts. The magistrates didn't hesitate to concur with us that spitting could be classified as litter."

The council said that as part of its campaign, launched in a bid to clean up the area, it has also approached the police who agree that PCSOs will issue fixed penalty notices to people they catch.